Families Experience Guatemala with Rick Steves Tour Guide

Experience Guatemala is not your average tourist excursion.

On November 19 through November 27, 2011, 17 people travelled to Guatemala guided by Jennifer Gouge from Rick Steves tours. Experience Guatemala is an opportunity for people of all ages to learn about the work of Global Visionaries in the communities of Guatemala as well as contribute to GV’s mission of empowering young people to become global leaders in creating a just and sustainable future.

This year all of the families that participated in Experience Guatemala were families that have adopted a kid from Guatemala.

Upon arriving in Guatemala City, the group went directly to Antigua.

While in Guatemala, the participants had the opportunity to learn about other organizations like GV that are partnering with local communities.

The group later returned to Guatemala City to visit the dump which like many developing countries is a place where hundreds of people live. According to Gouge, scavenging and living at the dump is dangerous and affects the lives of thousands of people. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, this dump is one of the largest in Central America.

Safe Passage is an organization that GV partners with whose mission is to solve the problem of the dump through educating the children who live there.

According to Gouge, guiding is more than just directing. The philosophy of Rick Steves tours is to help the participants engage with the culture and prepare them to interact with the local people.  During free time, Gouge would help the families by giving them ideas of activities they could do as well as giving them background information.

Experience Guatemala participants had several opportunities to interact with villagers. The group visited several of the GV work sites.

Picking coffee beans gave the Experience Guatemala participants the opportunity to interact with villagers while learning about the importance of coffee. Growing coffee is hard, physical work and is not like going to an office, Gouge said. Even when the price of coffee rises, the coffee growers do not make very much money. The coffee industry has a large impact on Guatemalan’s economy.

Before visiting the coffee farm, the participants discussed the purpose of the visit. According to Gouge, these discussions show a greater dimension of Guatemala. Jennifer said that she always explained why they were doing what they were doing and why they were going to the various places that they went. The goal of the trip was to educate the participants about the culture of Guatemala.

Planting trees gave the Experience Guatemala participants the opportunity to learn about how deforestation affects farms and the local people. A large percentage of the land mass is being deforested, Gouge said. Planting trees prevents mudslides and protects the land.

The Experience Guatemala group spent Thanksgiving at Lake Atitlán which is a lake surrounded by volcanoes. Thanksgiving dinner was spent at a restaurant with another organization. That day the group visited a women’s weaving cooperative.

Before returning to Guatemala City, the group visited Tikal, the center of the Mayan people. While it was still dark, the group walked to the edge of the jungle to watch the sunrise and listen to the jungle wakeup. The first animal in the jungle to wake up is the howler monkey. Gouge said that she could hear clans of howler monkeys screeching back and forth.

Participants told Gouge that Experience Guatemala was a “unique experience they will treasure forever.”

Before these families took part in Experience Guatemala, they already knew that they liked Guatemala but now they know that they love Guatemala, Gouge said.

View Pictures here.

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